Monday, December 09, 2013

Cu Chi Tunnel Bike Exploration

We've gotten in the habit of taking bike tours while we vacation and we decided to venture out a bit on our visit to Southeast Asia.  We didn't want just take an urban bike tour of Hanoi or Saigon (too damn dangerous in my mind), but we did want to get on the bikes again.

We did some research on TripAdvisor and found a group who would drive us out of Saigon where we would hop on the bikes and ride a total of 25km, which the route would include a ride through some rubber plantations, rice fields and small villages before we visit the tunnel areas.

The tunnels were essential for the Viet Cong's battle against the Americans during the Vietnam War (the American War).  The system of tunnels were more than 250km long covering multiple levels underground.  These tunnels allowed the Viet Cong to transport supplies (food and munitions) without the American's intervention.  People, not just soldiers, lived their lives in these little tunnels - cooking and sleeping here as well.

Our guide picked us up at 08h00 and we drove 30km outside of Saigon before we got on the bikes.  The bikes were in pretty good condition, not perfect but mostly safe. Our group of 4 were the only ones on the tour and our guide had just returned from leading an 8 day bike tour of the Mekong Delta area.  I think he was disappointed that we weren't as avid cyclers as his last group.

We made a couple stops along the way to look at the road side shops selling everything from fruits and veggies to live animals, etc.


Eels for sale
Dinner?
Moving farther down the road we come across a large rubber plantation. I really loved this part of the ride as it reminded me of the great film Indochine.  It was so calm and peaceful to ride being surrounded by the rubber trees.

Rubber tree plantation
The Cu Chi Tunnel area was more formally organized than I expected. There was an actual visitors center, guided tours, etc. Our bicycle guide acted as our guide on site as well, which was a bit of a double edged sword. He really seemed frustrated by our group.  He seemed quite hurried and rushed through some of the exhibits and areas.

One of the exhibit centers with a traditionally thatched roof.
Cap to the tunnel entrance
Peek-a-boo!
Booby trap!
We were then were given the chance to enter the tunnels through one of the access points.  It was a very tight fit and was quite unnerving ducking down into that area.


I could barely fit into the access point
GOOD BYE!
Now you see me, now you don't...
We continued through the area learning how the people lived during the American War, seeing their uniforms, their weapons and learning of their tactics.

Hammock

Rest area for VC troops including a hammock
Remains of a US Tank



Representation of daily VC life

VC Tunnel Hospital

Samples of ordinance used in war
We then left the official park and continued another 10km (or so) to get lunch.  The ride was long and very hot/humid at this point.  I lead the pack and decided that I was too hot and needed to stop for some sugar cane juice -- the guide did not want us to stop, he wanted us to power through the heat but I had no part of that. He was quite frustrated by me at this point too, but we needed to stop.

Exhausted and enjoying sugar cane juice.
We continued on a bit farther for lunch.  This was probably the worst selection for lunch on the entire trip. Most of the restaurant was filled with cruise ship people (Europeans and Americans). The food was bland and so poorly cooked. I was so horribly disappointed here.  The food thus far on the trip had been pretty great - this was really bad.

Lizard wanting to join us for lunch -- he could have it!
Watch out Ryan, he's right behind you!
Mediocre food after ride.
The one nice thing about that restaurant - and I must say, there was just one nice thing, was the views. The restaurant was surrounded by marshland.  I wouldn't visit this restaurant for the view though.
Marshland view from restaurant
View back to the restaurant
Closer to the restaurant
I am happy we did this bike tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. I was far from impressed with our tour guide. He was knowledgeable and spoke English very well - he was just rushed and seemed quite frustrated by us.  I would recommend taking this ride, but I would not recommend using this guide. We coordinated this tour through Exotissimo, which came highly recommended from other friends. They have a nice network throughout Southeast Asia.  The booking process and the plan of the tour was good - I think we just got a dud of a guide.

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3 comments:

Nguyễn Thùy Dương said...

These pictures is really wonderful. Can i use them to post my website:http://www.deluxegrouptours.com

steven John said...

So Amazing.I think you've got the exciting moment when the underground tunnels down there.
The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations.

Truong Minh Quang said...

It was really amazing to see the cu chi tunnels, i can't believe how many tunnels there were! You can actually go down part of one but you get the feel for how small they were and how small the soldiers were. 2 hours drive away from Ho Chi Minh City.

Visited April 2015